What happens if you started playing soccer later than most?
Can you ever catch up?
Most soccer players start playing the game when they're about 8 years old or younger.
Then there are players who don't start until later and they feel that it's too late to ever catch those players who've been playing for years.
There are also players who've always had it easy being one of the best on the team at the younger ages and now, all of a sudden, they are being passed by other players for reasons totally unknown to them!
If you started playing soccer at an older age or if you never really worked hard at getting better and now everybody else seems to be passing you by...we want to tell you a story.
Our story is about a young man from Georgia who will give you hope that it's not too late to start your journey right now if you follow his steps.
We met Will Pirkle from Atlanta Fire United almost 3 years ago. He was already 14 and that's older than most soccer players who want to advance their ball skills by the time they come to us.
Will's mom, Jamie, had heard about us from another Captain Elite family at an ODP event in Georgia. She wanted to help Will fulfill his dreams to become a better player so they decided to give an online course and camp a try. Jamie packed up the family camper and drove with her boys to attend our January 2020 Bash in Greensboro.
Jamie confided that when Will finally started playing club soccer, other players had been playing at a higher level much longer than Will who played rec for several years. Technique-wise, he was behind his teammates.
Before we continue their story, let's see what's happened to Will recently and then we will go back and see how he got where he is today as a rising high school senior.
I caught up with Will recently and learned he was chosen to play for a US team in Italy where his team would be playing against some amazing Italian teams. Listen to our interview with Will below to find out how this could possibly happen for a player who started so late in this game.
Me: How were you selected for this US team to play in Italy? What was the tryout like?
Will: I chose to try out for this team after getting an email from my club about it. The tryout was split up by age groups and we did technical work to warm up and then moved to 1v1s and then to small-sided (games). The tryout was an hour and 45 minutes to two hours.
Me: Which things did you find difficult and things that were easy for you during tryouts?
Will: Trying to stand out to the coach in a short period of time was difficult but connecting with players during (the tryout) was easy because I have met the majority of the players before.
Me: What things did you do as a youth player that helped you make this team, including any work you did on your own outside of the club?
Will: My willingness to fail and learn from those mistakes (was important). Also, the advice I got from Captain Elite coaches. The importance of practicing everywhere (i.e. all soccer positions) and at every opportunity. And also playing against kids at a high level (at Captain Elite camps) where they were giving it everything they had. Captain Elite also gave me the foundation drills to help me make up the skills I didn’t have because I started later.
Me: Would you have changed anything in your youth to make the whole process easier for you?
Will: Yes, starting to play soccer, mainly club, sooner in my career and making that my main focus.
Me: What’s been fun and what’s been challenging over there for you?
Will: Everything has been fun, but specifically, learning from new coaches experiencing their play style, the culture here (in Italy), and playing with players from all over the USA and from other countries. The challenging part was the fields, trying to build chemistry in a short period of time and the culture of the Italians we played against.
Will: My team did well. In the first 2 games, we struggled because we were still trying to figure each other out, but as the week went on, we found what worked for us, and then we started to compete with the teams. The teams we played were teams like AC Milan, AS Roma, and a few others.
Me: What’s your field position and how did you do?
Will: I play Center Back, but there were 8 center backs, so our coach had to move us around to other positions, as well as our main (position). So that’s why it’s important to be versatile because then I played outside back and helped my team there. At both positions, I did well and helped my team move the ball well and I constantly talked on the field to organize them.
Me: What comes next in soccer for you when you get home? Has this experience changed your mind about soccer at all either positive or negative?
Will: (Playing) club soccer to keep improving my technical aspect as well as working on the physical aspect (of soccer). That is one thing this trip has helped me with in a positive way, was perspective of the game and how to read the game better, as well as move my team to regain and retain possession.
Now let's take a closer look at Will's progression with Captain Elite from 14 years to 17 years old.
In addition to attending each training camp we've held during the past 2.5 years, Will has taken our online Close Control Dribbling, 1st Touch and Passing, and Striking and Ball Manipulation Courses. As you can see, he's come a long way in his development in only 2.5 years!
Will is proof that even though you may be starting later in your soccer journey than most players you know, it is not too late to become the best soccer player you can be by working on your ball skills including dribbling, 1st touch, passing, and striking. Train-at-home soccer skills training is one way to do this economically. Find the right program for you and get started today.
Another important lesson from Will's story is that you should be able to play numerous positions on the field. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you can only be a forward or a midfielder for instance. Be willing to play other positions and actually become good at them. Welcome your coach's decision to move you to another spot on the field. You can even volunteer for it. Embrace it and have fun! Your coach and teammates will appreciate you more and you'll be a much happier and more successful player because of your flexibility!
Since Will chose Captain Elite to learn technical skills, listen to his mom talk about Will's progress and how his technical soccer skills changed over a very short time period using the programs:
My son has participated in Captain Elite's camps and online programs for 3 years now. He loves it! The atmosphere and level of coaching are the best out there. They truly care about each player and take the time to really get to know them and their soccer needs. My son started at Captain Elite playing at the academy level, he has since moved up to ECNL and also plays for the Georgia ODP Team. Captain Elite was a huge piece of the puzzle that got him to where he is today. We cannot say enough good things about Coach Keating, Coach Cam, Coach Adam and Maria. It is a wonderful experience worth the drive and the money. We highly recommend Captain Elite to everyone- Jamie Pirkle, mother of Will Pirkle
Go get 'em, Will! Your story has just begun and your hard work and dedication will pay off in ways you cannot imagine. We are your biggest fans! Thanks for chatting with us and helping other young players learn from your example.